Learning new things

I have a six-year old son who is an avid learner.  When we read books or watch tv, he frequently asks, “Is this real?”  Recently, we were talking about the Big Bang, and he was full of questions.  I came home with a Stephen Hawking video to help explain, which did not go over well.  Even my pausing the show to try and help explain gravity did not help.  In many ways, he had questions but was not even close to ready to have his questions addressed in that way.

In this same week, my son was very proud of all he had learned in one day.  He learned how to tie his shoes and how to zip one jacket that had been hard for him previously.  He was thrilled with his accomplishments and talked about it several times that evening.

zipper3

This experience led me to think about times in my classroom when I set out to teach my students about a particular idea, and it did not go well.  I knew it didn’t go well, while it was happening.  Were those students not yet ready to learn about that topic?  Or was it just not as exciting as learning something that is desired, useful knowledge?  How can I turn more of what I do into being the things that kids want to know?  More and more, I think the answer lies with well-structured project-based learning.  The opportunities for frequent teacher-student conversation, and encouraging students to make use of all of the resources around them feels much more like the path that education should be taking.  When I become more of a resource, able to explain a particular idea, the level of attention to what I am saying goes up, and students keep asking questions until they truly understand what they want to know.  How can I bring this into my classroom more/all of the time?

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